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NASA IRIS Explorer Mission To Use Acton Optics & Coatings Product Line

Princeton Instruments is pleased to announce that the Acton Optics & Coatings product line has provided a number of critical optical coatings in use in the recently launched NASA IRIS Explorer Mission via contracts with Lockheed Martin and major partners Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Montana State University.

These images show a comparison between the higher resolution provided by the new IRIS solar observatory (right) and the SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) spacecraft (left). Scientists say IRIS, launched last month, will help shed light on the sun's impact on Earth. Photo Credit: Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA/AP

These far ultraviolet and ultraviolet reflective optical coatings are an integral part of both the IRIS telescope and the IRIS spectrograph units of the mission instrumentation. IRIS was launched into orbit on June 28, 2013 and is in a sun-synchronous polar orbit that will allow it to make almost continuous solar observations during its two-year mission.

The wavelength bands of interest for this mission are the FUV (133.2nm to 140.6nm) and NUV (278.5nm to 283.5nm).  The mirror coatings provided for the IRIS telescope exhibit high reflectivity in the FUV band while maintaining a fixed reflectivity in the NUV band to limit crosstalk into the FUV band and low reflectivity in the visible and infrared.  A variety of coatings for components within the IRIS spectrograph were provided including camera mirrors, fold mirrors, reimaging mirrors, and collimating mirrors, in additional to a FUV bandpass filter.  The coatings for the spectrograph and slit jaw imager provide maximum on-band and minimum off-band reflectivity at the selectable emission lines in these two bands to allow observation of many wavelengths at once.

“The quality of images and spectra we are receiving from IRIS is amazing. This is just what we were hoping for,” said Dr. Alan Title, IRIS principal investigator and physicist at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Technology Center (ATC) Solar and Astrophysics Laboratory in Palo Alto, Calif. "There is much work ahead to understand what we’re seeing, but the quality of the data will enable us to do that."

“IRIS was an excellent opportunity for the Acton Optics & Coatings team to demonstrate our expertise in UV coatings design and manufacturing,” said Matt Lyons, Business Manager of the Acton Optics & Coatings product line.  “We were provided mission spectral goals and, as we do with many of our customers, we engineered thin film coatings that offer unique reflectivity, transmission and blocking properties that advance our customers scientific goals.  Very interesting science is being conducted in the UV and we are pleased our products can help researchers make advances in this important spectral region.”

Acton Optics & Coatings has a long history of providing long-lifetime, high-performance optics and coatings for numerous astronomy projects including SDO (AIA), Lyra, PICARD/SODISM, Cassini, Hubble, SOHO (UVCS), TRACE and WISP.  


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